Everyone quickly! Hide your turtles, or else some one will have it away!
But when I say turtles, I mean tortoises, so apologies and all that. Would you believe it but tortoise theft is up nearly 50 percent!! Did you know nicked tortoises can sell for up to six grand on the black market after new strict environmental laws protecting the species made them even harder to buy legally in the UK. Thefts seem to be rife in the warm summer months when the creatures are roaming in their gardens.
John Hayward is the man who runs the National Theft Register for stolen animals. He dealt with over 40 cases last year, in the year before it was only 29. John said owners should consider protecting their animals by taking detailed pictures of them and also investing in a microchip. He has gone even as far as advising the installation of CCTV or infrared cameras in gardens to keep your prescious shelled one safe.
Mr Hayward has said: “Many people do not even consider they would need to take these actions, but they make a massive difference”. He went on to add, “Most people who simply love their own animal do not realise that tortoises are targeted by thieves. But the CCTV and infrared will stop people trespassing, and the picture and microchipping will help us track them down”. “People can’t hide these animals forever. If they have been smuggled to Australia then that’s hard for us, but if they stay in the UK we often can find them”.
Mr Hayward works alongside police to investigate a variety of rare animal thefts, and also helps the owners whose tortoises get thieved. The rise in criminal activity has been linked to a change which has seen some tortoises given greater protection as endangered animals by the UN. Last year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s Wildlife Crime Unit made tortoises one of its priorities. So it’s serious stuff here kids! There is also laws on microchipping, If the tortoise is bigger than 10cm in length it must be microchipped, and cannot be sold without proof that they were bred in captivity.
Hence the huge price tag some tortoises have, for example Zeus, the 7 stone African tortoise was stolen from St Austell last year and he would potentially reach that sum. Thankfully he was found after he was sold to a stupid person who didn’t realise a tortoise of this nature was very rare to come across.
One of the problems is the actual punishment is very little, Zeus’s abductor was given only a 10 week suspended sentence! With an obligation to complete 80 hours of community service.
Let’s keep our tortoises safe people! But for crist sake don’t put them in your pocket. Unless they like it.